Seattle claimed their first MLS victory of the 2022 season last Saturday, successfully defending their home turf of Lumen Field against the Los Angeles Galaxy to win 3-2. Previously undefeated, the Galaxy came out the better team in both halves, dominating and scoring early, and only the veteran tenacity of the battle-tested Sounders enabled them to recover and create chances of their own. A few second-half tactical changes covered for poor form out of the locker room as Seattle surged to the end of the match, scoring late to take all three points.
Stefan Frei – 6 | Community – 6.6
Captain Frei was a nonfactor in the game, making a single save and allowing two goals, neither of which he could be expected to prevent.
One thing I liked: Frei remains strong on the ground and looks more comfortable using his feet to distribute than he did after returning from injury last season. He completed 78 percent of his passes, missing short and long clearances and adding some support to distribution.
One thing I didn’t like: Stefan was nearly beaten on a long range shot from Efraín Álvarez, with only the post preventing a goal. This was a carbon copy of the GOTW he scored a week ago, and the Sounders should have scouted and anticipated this better.
Going forward: Stefan looks strong and saves what he should be expected to save. Some of the blame for miscommunications on defense and lack of intensity out of the locker room can be shared by the captain, so Frei must step up and direct his team to come out cleaner and more focused if they aren’t effectively getting that direction from staff.
Nouhou – 6 | Community – 6.6
Nouhou continues to play at a high level in Seattle’s defense. Against LA he had three tackles, two interceptions, and three clearances in a busy afternoon on the defensive side of the ball. Offensively, he pushed forward on a more measured scale, allowing increased space to the attackers in front of him while still being a threatening option as needed.
One thing I liked: Staying connected to his defense helped the Sounders’ shape against LA and was essential to track the inverted play of Galaxy’s Douglas Costa, who Nouhou was quick to track through the middle on numerous occasions.
One thing I didn’t like: I have no idea what Nouhou was doing on the 48th minute free kick that LA scored from. He appeared to duck and turn his face away from the ball, which forced Yeimar to attack the ball directly where Nouhou’s head had been. Just about anything other than what Nouhou did would likely have prevented this goal.
Going forward: There was a lot of growth from Nouhou and Jordan Morris in this match regarding spacing, and Nouhou seemed to be more patient about picking his spots to overlap and cross without crowding Jordan as much. This meant more of the attack went through the right side, though, as Seattle leaned on the BRoldan wing for success in the second half. The Sounders will want to find more balance to wide play and leverage the verticality potential of the left.
Xavier Arreaga – 7 | Community – 7.2
Arreaga was strong against LAG, and after contributing to the early confusion that allowed the away goal, was steadfast defensively and denied every play through the middle. He led the team with a massive seven clearances, denying the Galaxy time and again when they tried to penetrate the box to find Chicharito running in behind.
One thing I liked: Even without sustained possession, teams are going to create set pieces, and it’s essential to the success of any team to have threats on dead balls. Enter Arreaga, who was massive offensively in this game, first hitting the post in the 62nd minute and then scoring the game-winner 10 minutes later. His header to win the game was perfect, as he read the play well, stayed onside, untucked his shirt to turn on his invisibility trait, and then finished clean to the far post when offered a beautiful cross from A-Rold.
One thing I didn’t like: The first goal from LA started with a defensive breakdown in the midfield tracking runners and dominoed to the center backs. This play took advantage of a disconnect between the back line, with Yeimar being out of position, Arreaga caught in no man’s land, and the fullbacks noninfluential. An assertive step to the player or ball may have improved the situation, and Xavi’s indecision enabled a window for LA to exploit.
Going forward: Arreaga’s defense was strong and his offensive impact is a bonus. He has always been good in the air and continues to lurk in dangerous areas on offense, which is an important ingredient for a team that can expect to create many dead ball opportunities. With the lineup changing around him, Xavier will need to continue to play steadily and be a fulcrum for others to distribute through.
Yeimar– 5 | Community – 6.2 (off injured 52’ for Ragen)
Yeimar had an active defensive match before leaving early with an ankle injury. He had mixed results, with three tackles, two interceptions, three clearances, and 77 percent passing — but also had some positioning and distribution struggles that contributed directly to goals against.
One thing I liked: He remains one of, if not the best 1-v-1 defender in the league, continually dominating any physical matchup against the plethora of players LA sent his direction. A 32nd minute matchup with Chicharito resulted in a Frei goal kick and the added bonus of *YeimarShyGrin* and *ChicharitoArmWaveAndWhine*.
One thing I didn’t like: The marking in front of him devolved quickly in the 6th minute and Yeimar was slow to adjust, losing runners and ending in a poor position. His indecision and ultimately poor choice gave LA a huge early goal. You can find the “Yeimar wild passes to no one” in the 22nd and 37th minutes.
Going forward: Even on a shakier outing, Yeimar is an excellent defender and any time the team misses him for any reason, it’s a worrying proposition. Every iteration of Seattle’s best 11 has him firmly entrenched in the right defensive center of the field, and he will need to heal quickly for the Sounders to achieve their biggest goals this year.
Alex Roldan – 7 | Community – 6.9
An outing that started quietly for Roldan exploded in the second half as he grew into the match and eventually delivered the game-winning assist. He also filled up the defensive stat sheet, earning a team-high four tackles, adding two interceptions and three clearances as the team shape improved after some early hiccups.
One thing I liked: Team Roldan came out in the second half and started to connect up the wing, ultimately resulting in Alex having a free look at a cross and options galore in the 72nd minute after some interplay with Cristian. Alex responded with a brilliant curling ball that cut out multiple defenders, froze the keeper on his line, and dropped delicately to the forehead of one hard-to-identify player with his shirt untucked.
One thing I didn’t like: A quiet first half included some marking lowlights where Alex struggled to pass off attackers through the midfield channels to teammates correctly, and LA feasted in between the lines. Roldan’s marking and connection with other Sounders took a while to mesh.
Going forward: Seattle has a wealth of ways to attack opponents, and it was great to see the BRoldan wing start to cook in the second half. The team will need to use this obvious chemistry and energy as a fulcrum to penetrate opponent’s shapes while offering multiple options for quality service.
Obed Vargas – 4 | Community – 5.5 (off 59’ for Rowe)
Obed started another MLS match and again struggled to impact the game positively. He played 60 minutes and only had 18 total touches, covering a lot of ground but not having much success moving the ball across the middle, ending with 60 percent pass completion. His defensive positioning stressed teammates on both sides of the ball, although he earned three tackles and a clearance.
One thing I liked: Even in a bit of a tough outing, I love seeing the evolution of Vargas’ skillset. An early takeover with JP was sublime, not because it’s a difficult concept, but because it’s something many players struggle with. They performed this perfectly, showing that their communication and cohesion is improving.
One thing I didn’t like: On the goal, Obed was lost, losing a central runner and failing to do more than mark some central space. This will be a learning moment for the young player, as either running with the vertical player or pressing the ball were vastly better options, and his indecision cost the team. Seattle played much better after he subbed out, showing how much he struggled.
Going forward: Vargas is a great young talent but should be expected to have growing pain games like this. It’s unfortunate that the team was directly punished for his mistakes, but he has made similar gaffes in previous matches that were overlooked due to teammate support and because some of his highlights overshadowed them. The sky is still the limit, but there will be some bumps as he grows into a more assertive role.
João Paulo – 6 | Community – 7.2
JP did his job in the middle of the field with his usual patience, traveling horizontally to cover in front of the back four. He had 55 touches on the afternoon but couldn’t translate them into a lot of attacking looks, instead keeping what little possession Seattle could manage. His clean 86 percent passing rate was essential to maintaining shape across a midfield that was gouged several times.
One thing I liked: JP still managed to impact this match on both sides of the field. Although he only had a single shot, he once again was excellent on set pieces, whether going direct in the 17th minute on a Seattle corner kick goal, or changing up the angle and passing wide in the 72nd minute for the game-winning goal.
One thing I didn’t like: This was a less impactful match than usual from the Brazilian, and he was only credited with two tackles. Some of the midfield confusion was due to him being on a different page than teammates when looking to advance the ball. An uncharacteristic loose pass in the 31st minute was directly out of bounds instead of to a teammate.
Going forward: The ability to flex him or Albert Rusnák on set pieces (or even both for short corners) is a useful tactic the team can leverage to create sustainable offense. As Seattle’s midfield coalesces during this season, it’s a given that João Paulo will start and excel in the defensive midfield.
Jordan Morris– 6 | Community – 6.9
Morris was an effective attacking option on the left but failed to get into many 1-v-1 situations where he could utilize his speed to open the defense. The LA team was clearly set up to prevent that very thing, so it was great to see Jordan move around to earn 41 touches instead of fading into the background. He contributed a shot on goal, 78 percent passing, and forced the defense to shift, opening the opposite flank for Seattle to ultimately have success, while also scoring a booming rocket goal to bring the Sounders back into the match.
One thing I liked: Morris has developed a maturity to his game, knowing when to turn on the burst and attack and when to control and find teammates. His ability to possess in tight areas and create advantages through aerial and holdup play is underrated, and something Seattle utilized in a match where possession was at a premium. His positioning and persistent effort were key to his ability to score in the 17th, bringing Seattle back to level.
One thing I didn’t like: Although the combination with Nouhou on the left looked better (especially a 23rd minute overlap), Jordan played this match more tentatively than he needed to. Having him and Nouhou bombing forward on top of each other isn’t necessary, but there were chances for Morris to abuse poor outside defenders from LA.
Going forward: Sometimes Morris should take on an entire defense and surprise himself with the results. He has shown the ability to take over matches, but he needs to find more consistent aggression and belief in himself. Even playing conservatively, he is part of solid play, but there could be so much more.
Albert Rusnák – 6 | Community – 6.2 (off 81’ for Cissoko)
Rusnák got another start at the central attacking midfield position and did a great job moving around the field to support both offensive and defensive endeavors. He had a shot on goal, a key pass, and 81 percent completion rate. When you add in his stellar defensive contributions, including a massive 86 percent success rate on nine midfield duels, Albert is settling in as a key cog to the Sounder midfield.
One thing I liked: This match had a few “pass before the pass” sort of plays from Rusnák, especially his over-the-top inch-perfect ball to find a streaking Alex Roldan up the wing en route to some Montero Magic right before the half. A similarly impressive pass in the 62nd minute found Arreaga’s head prior to the post, in what could have been a set piece assist had the goal frame cooperated.
One thing I didn’t like: Seattle hasn’t had a central midfielder with only 25 touches in a match in a long time, and there’s an adjustment necessary for a team used to a ball-dominant central player. Although the Sounders won, there is room for Rusnák to demand more touches and he clearly has the class to do so. This team might be better if he does.
Going forward: The overall class from Rusnák has trickled through into many small highlights, but we are still waiting for that big moment where he shows he is simply better than most players on the field. His ability to fit seamlessly as part of a winning team culture is excellent, and hopefully his play translates into actual goals soon.
Cristian Roldan – 7 | Community – 7.5 (MOTM)
Yet again Cristian did a little bit of everything, rampaging up and down the right wing and popping up in the corner for service, or in the center to support defensively as needed. His communication and connection with his brother and Rusnák created opportunities up the right, where Seattle had their most success.
One thing I liked: Roldan does all the little things that aren’t often found in the stats or recaps. He was integral to all Sounders goals, getting the header into a dangerous spot for Morris to shovel home an early equalizer, finding a touch in the buildup to the second goal, and then driving at the defense and dropping off into the space created for his brother to provide the game-winning assist. These little things are so integral to the team success and a direct result of his class and effort.
One thing I didn’t like: A single key pass and dismal 65 percent passing were part of a tough match for Roldan at times to directly impact play, and while he sought out the ball early often, he failed to produce the consistent impact we have grown accustomed to through the course of a match.
Going forward: It’s Cristian Roldan, and he’s going to impact the match in more ways than you can count. You can depend on it at this point, and the only thing questionable about his play is where he will show up in the lineup sheet. His effort is unmatched.
Fredy Montero – 7 (MOTM) | Community – 7.5 (off 81’ for Bruin)
Montero is thriving early this season for Seattle, making some perhaps unexpected starts for the Sounders, and responding with goals. Against LA he was a consistent threat, earning a team-high three shots, winning multiple aerials, and displaying an intensity and dedication to playing both sides of the ball that is fantastic, and that resulted in a penalty he both earned and converted.
One thing I liked: Fredy earned a PK off some tricky tekkers and scored it cleanly to give Seattle a halftime lead, but it was his work rate that impressed even more. The first Sounders goal came off a corner kick earned by Fredy — his relentless forward pressure on left back Raheem Edwards created first a turnover and then a set piece, which Seattle converted to tie the match.
One thing I didn’t like: Fredy faded as he tired and was ultimately subbed out late. Asking him to be the entire offense in MLS matches is a heavy load, and Seattle needs to find better ways to surround him in league matches with opportunity and teammates.
Going forward: Montero is playing with an intensity he may not be well known for. While Seattle shouldn’t expect him to play right back (as he smartly did to cover in the 27th minute) seeing this veteran excel in all facets of the game is a joy to watch. The team should continue to ride this wave of great form as long as he can keep it up.
Jackson Ragen – 6 | Community – 6.1 (on 52’ for Yeimar)
Ragen was forced quickly onto the field for an injury sub and was terrific. He had excellent passing, earned four clearances, and smoothly slotted into the defense that earned a shutout with him on the pitch.
One thing I liked: Jackson’s composure impresses, and his head-up style allows him to see passing lanes and complete possession with his first-rate touch. He ended 9/10 passing on the afternoon.
One thing I didn’t like: Some minor communication issues mainly through midfield marking and backside runs with advanced right back play will need to be cleaned up.
Going forward: Ragen appears to be next man up for Seattle with Yeimar potentially out for a while due to injury. Importantly, this player plays well within himself, and is allowing the game to come to him, which, while cautious, is good for consistency on a team that doesn’t yet need spectacular from a backup center back.
Kelyn Rowe – 6 | Community – 6.0 (on 59’ for Vargas)
Rowe subbed into the center of defensive midfield for Vargas and was an immediate upgrade. His positioning and defensive intensity made a big difference, allowing Seattle to push forward, and he was a big reason the Sounders greatly improved after his entrance.
One thing I liked: Even playing only 30 minutes, Kelyn led the team with four tackles, he had 26 effective touches, and a 65th minute backside coverage for an advanced Alex Roldan was perfect.
One thing I didn’t like: His 77 percent passing was conservative, with a single long ball attempt among many short and careful passes.
Going forward: The veteran Rowe’s ability to fill in for almost any position on the field was huge this match and remains a valuable asset for a team that intends to compete for everything this year. While he is prone to some struggles, match performances like this in shorter doses highlight the value he brings to the Sounders.
Abdoulaye Cissoko – 5 | Community – 5.7 (on 81’ for Rusnák)
Cissoko came in to give Rusnák an early breather and solidify a defensive unit that intended to preserve a lead.
One thing I liked: Abdoulaye’s positioning was solid, and he helped Seattle gum up the defensive third and prevent any obvious chances late for LA.
One thing I didn’t like: Three touches, and 0/1 passing was underwhelming.
Going forward: Cissoko and Ragen appear to be neck and neck as defensive options, with AB getting the nod for any left-sided needs. He has grown into this role well, offering consistent play and no immediately obvious deficits in a short time this season.
Will Bruin – 6 | Community – 6.3 (on 81’ for Montero)
Bruin got his first run out of the 2022 season in a 15-minute spell for the exhausted Montero. He immediately added a target and effort up top, as he was very active late in the match both in possession and pressuring LA in their own half.
One thing I liked: His hustle and holdup was outstanding. Will buzzed around the field forcing LA to spend time either attempting to dispossess him or passing around the back to avoid his pressing.
One thing I didn’t like: Sixty percent passing was rough, and this was clearly someone coming in to his first game of the season, as evidenced by flat out walking in the 94th minute, clearly gassed. His effort waned exceedingly fast as he tired.
Going forward: Bruin showed exceptionally well for about 10 of his 15 minutes for Seattle. Once his fitness matches his intensity and production for those first 10 minutes, he will be a very valuable option off the bench to add exactly what he did against LA.
Allen Chapman – 5 | Community – 5.1
This was an up and down refereeing job that had some highs and plenty of lows. Overall, the match flowed well, but there was enough inconsistency in calls to frustrate most everyone who played or watched.
One thing I liked: Immediately producing a yellow card for a dive in the 45th minute on Kevin Cabral was important to penalize simulation. Somewhere Kasey Keller wrote a thesis on why Cabral should be drawn and quartered and his remains sent to the four corners of the globe.
One thing I didn’t like: Eighteen fouls for LA and only two yellows (one the aforementioned dive) was indicative of some inconsistent whistling from Chapman. Raheem Edwards had five fouls without a card, for example. Perhaps more annoying was a 38th minute advantage given to LA that was inexplicably then awarded as a free kick well after the advantage fizzled out. A similar play in the 78th minute saw Fredy Montero not awarded the similar call.
Going forward: Chapman wasn’t horrible, but there was plenty of discrepancy in his whistle, including enough refereeing to the score late to infuriate anyone emotionally invested in the Sounders’ outcome.
LA Galaxy MOTM
Alright, so Doug Costa won Man of the Match thanks to a deflected free kick goal and his general involvement in much of what was good for LA. He’s a delight. But I want to pivot, and instead dedicate this section to LA’s fullbacks, because the Sounders really couldn’t have done it without them. Edwards was consistently the worst player on the field, and his involvements always seemed to end with him committing a foul or falling down, hoping to draw one. And on the other side, Julián Araujo was everywhere for Seattle. He may have prodded home Seattle’s first. He definitely created the penalty for Seattle’s second. And finally, he failed to step with his line, playing Xavi onside for the winner. Just immaculate stuff. (Please note, this is in no way an endorsement for voting for the opposition player or players who benefited Seattle the most. Keep doing what you’re doing. Keep voting for the Douglas Costas of the world. Sometimes your local editor just has to go on a bit of a jag.)
Next up: Following their vacation in Mexico, Seattle plays a resurgent Austin team that has shown they can dominate bad teams.